With a name like The Zombie Hero, the very first thing that popped into my head was The Toxic Avenger. The titles aren’t necessarily all that similar, aside from being three separate words based in a similar format (definite article, noun, noun) but they both fill your mind with creatures doing heroic acts that are usually outside of their character. Coming into the film with little knowledge, I wasn’t surprised to find a reference to Troma (the company responsible for releasing The Toxic Avenger) placed in a not-so-subtle manner within the first twenty minutes. Lloyd Herz is a news reporter who is brought up throughout the majority of the movie and his name is an amalgamation of the two founders of Troma studios, Lloyd Kaufmann and Michael Herz. At the time this reference is made during the course of the movie, you should be pretty well prepared for what is coming ahead. For those who aren’t familiar with Troma, they release pictures that essentially carry on in the tradition of Ed Wood. These films are often tremendously over the top but differ from Ed Wood in the fact that they are made intentionally bad. Despite the fact that Troma pictures are universally described as dreadful, they have their own charm and draw in a fairly large audience. The Zombie Hero is an attempt by independent filmmaker Nicholas A. Jackson to create something equally as entertaining. Although I do not see "The Zombie Hero" taking the reigns from Toxie as defender of the b-movie realm, the movie does well in what it attempts to do. What more could you ask for in a low budget z-movie?
Mike is a young man who seems to have everything! His adorable girlfriend Nina loves him dearly and the two share a positively ideal home-life. While heading home one evening, with flowers and a ring in hand for his proposal to Nina, he is ran down by a car driven by the evil Dr. Logan Faust who plans to use Mike for his experiments in re-animation. Dr. Faust’s wife Emily has long been frozen in a cryogenic state where she awaits his discovery of a successful re-animation. Faust is successful in regenerating life inside the body of Mike, however he is no longer what we would consider to be human. He is a zombie and with that change comes a taste for human flesh! Mike escapes after his awakening and begins a search for human flesh, and those who deserve to have their lives taken from them! Along the way he discovers a bum in an alleyway who is far more intelligent than he seems. With this bum training Mike, he looks to take on the evil doctor and is now The Zombie Hero!
You imagine that Lloyd Kaufman would be exceptionally proud of Nicholas A. Jackson and his work here. Lloyd has always been the champion of “truly independent cinema” and you can’t argue the fact that The Zombie Hero is anything other than just that. The term “back yard production” certainly fits the bill here, as the crew did as much as they could to give the film a bigger budget feel than was actually possible. If you are at all familiar with the German Splatter movement of the nineties or filmmakers such as Andreas Schnaas or Olaf Ittenbach, then you can picture the overall look of the film in your head. Even though The Zombie Hero is not nearly as violent as these German films, it certainly carries with it that similar feeling that you’re watching several friends getting together on the weekend and trying to make something rather sordid. Jackson’s film is more visually entertaining than a lot of the earlier works of Ittenbach or Schnaas, as the young filmmaker does his best to give the film some sense of atmosphere and technical prowess. He makes good use of color and lighting on the interior scenes throughout and you some times forget the campy vibe or the no-budget sets.
It is quirky, campy, goofy and chock full of bad wigs & mustaches. Jackson pumps his film full of any over the top ideas that could be achieved and for what it is; it works. There is no real heart to the love story, all motives are forced and the performances are exaggerated and hollow. Looking at it from a technical standpoint, of course, this is not a good movie. However, the completely bland and utterly fake dialogue exchanged between many of the characters is so lifeless that they become humorous. That is the point of things however. You could argue that making a film such as this is akin to putting on critical armor; as nothing said or did ultimately accounts for anything other than entertainment so criticizing it becomes ultimately futile and beside the point. If it’s supposed to be bad, who could dissuade a viewer from seeing it just by pointing out the obvious? I suppose it is a discussion for another time, but I think of the many films of this sort that I’ve received through my time here at Rogue Cinema The Zombie Hero is certainly one of the better entries into the genre. There is a definite appreciation for genre film here and the filmmakers do their best to make something that will entertain horror fans.
The armor for the actual Zombie Hero, which can be seen on the cover artwork, is very well made. Even his home-made costume at the beginning of the film, which features a rather simple gathering of household items, is pretty well done. This first costume is simply our leading character in a cape, with a hockey mask on and a pair of gloves. The way the costume actually matches up though actually works very well in the context of the film. When we’re introduced to the Zombie Hero armor though, that is when the filmmakers really show us their attention to detail in their props. In this regard the film really establishes itself ahead of its peers as most films of this type likely wouldn’t spend so much time and energy on this kind of detail. The armor is made up what appears to be a melted down hockey mask of sorts, plenty of skulls, spikes and some very cool sharpened finger-bladed gloves. The zombie-makeup and FX work are also very well done, aside from a few visual goofs and some obviously hokey gore. The boomerang/detachable arm gimmick also deserves some mention as it is one very fun bit that comes back throughout the running time of the picture.
Although it isn’t the very best of its genre, it’s certainly an interesting little no-budget piece of b-movie cinema. Despite whatever issues I may have had with it, if you’re a fan of films such as Tromeo & Juliet or Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead then this might just tickle your fancy! You can read more about the filmmakers and the project itself at their home page: